Columbus: Saturday qualifying report

VETERAN PRO STOCKER ALLEN JOHNSON EARNS FIRST NO. 1 QUALIFIER Schumacher, Hight and Chip Ellis round out top performers at Pontiac Performance Nationals HEBRON, Ohio -- Pro Stock veteran Allen Johnson used a personal-best pass of 6.679...

VETERAN PRO STOCKER ALLEN JOHNSON EARNS FIRST NO. 1 QUALIFIER

Schumacher, Hight and Chip Ellis round out top performers at Pontiac Performance Nationals

HEBRON, Ohio -- Pro Stock veteran Allen Johnson used a personal-best pass of 6.679 seconds at the 42nd annual Pontiac Performance NHRA Nationals presented by Summit Racing to earn the first No. 1 qualifier of his career. The race is the eighth of 23 on the $50 million POWERade Drag Racing Series.

Johnson was joined at the top of the respective qualifying ladders by Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), and Chip Ellis (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

Racing in his 11th season as a professional, Johnson had never qualified No. 1 before Saturday. All that changed when he posted a 6.679 at 205.82 mph in his Johnson & Johnson/Mopar Dodge Stratus R/T in the final qualifying session.

"That's probably the best run we've ever made in our team's history," Johnson said. "We've come close to being No. 1 qualifier three different times but never got it done. It's nice to finally get one."

Schumacher (4.476 at 331.53 mph) and Hight (4.715 at 326.63 mph) didn't improve on their opening day runs and received no real challenges in Saturday's sunshine. Ellis was another story, coming from mid-pack to earn the top spot with a track-record 7.025-second pass on his Buell V-Twin.

This was Schumacher's fifth low qualifier award of the season but the back-to-back reigning champion is still looking for his first win of the year for the U.S. Army team.

"This is a good veteran team," Schumacher said. "These guys won't get rushed. We all know the clock is ticking but we're not going to panic with only a third of the season gone. With other teams, maybe they would worry. But we have Alan Johnson and everyone knows he's capable of turning it on big time."

Schumacher's teammate, points leader Melanie Troxel, ended up fifth with a 4.529 in the Skull Shine/Torco Race Fuels dragster.

Hight was No. 1 earlier this year in Las Vegas but it didn't pay off as he lost in the opening round on race day to the same opponent he'll face again this time around, Tony Bartone. He's hoping his eighth career low qualifier will turn out better for his Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang team.

"The last time I was No. 1 we raced Tony Bartone in Round 1 and he beat us," Hight said. "We got him again tomorrow so I guess we owe him one. You never forget those tough first-round losses and I'm sure I'll be thinking about it all night tonight."

Ellis grabbed the NTR speed record Friday with a 193.46 mph clocking. Saturday, he added the more important elapsed time mark Saturday when clocked a 7.025 to place his Drag Specialties S&S Buell V-Twin on top of the Pro Stock Motorcycle field for the first time this season.

"I was surprised with that 7.02 just because there was a pretty strong headwind and that usually slows the bikes down quite a bit," Ellis said. "I just got into my tuck and tried to get as small as possible. I was pretty excited when I heard what I had run."

Sunday's eliminations begin at 11 a.m.

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Bartone , Tony Schumacher , Melanie Troxel , Allen Johnson , Chip Ellis , Robert Hight